Ridgetop Syncopators Reappreciation

I still contend that this little outfit never got its due.

Named after the neighborhood that I had been living in since I got to Austin in '89, the Ridgetop Syncopators were always band looking for an audience. Styled entirely in the mold of the Milton Brown and Cliff Bruner bands, we were told over and over again by promoters that we weren't "Western Swing" at least by modernist standards. In fact the rejection letters were unintentionally hilarious, noting pointedly that we didn't have a pedal steel guitar or matching vests so how could we be a Texas Swing band? Ah, yes...

We made did big splashes at the Calgary and Winnipeg Folk Festivals in 2006 and appeared as a special guest at the Kennedy Center's Duke Ellington celebration, but couldn't catch the ear of the local hipsters or the old guard C&W folks. We had a regular Wednesday night stand opening for the then very popular WT Special, who when they eventually folded re-formed as JWW and the Prospectors, essentially cloning our lineup and material. But I doubt they've gotten any further than we did!

I still work with nearly everyone of the old Syncopators to this day, and fiddler Sean Orr and I just released a new CD as did steel man George Carver which is worth checking out.http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/markrubin2

But do me a favor and checkout the little EP we made. I think its still pretty cool.


The first of a Trypich of planned recordings for 2013.

I've got 3 recording projects that I plan to have released this year. Ok, ok, call it making up for lost time. I had planned on directing my creative efforts on more Atomic Duo releases and touring, but when I was let go from that project, I kinda dropped all the balls I had up in the air, personally and professionally. It was time for a deep breath as it turned out, and through the process of recovery and reassessment, I was happily introduced to a community of musicians and players who have been very inspiring, encouraging and actively supportive. Everything happens for a reason I guess, so I'm very happy to have gone through the BS if this is what it can look like on the other side.

Sean Orr & Texas Gold @ Ginny's
In an effort to honor old friendship and long standing mutual appreciation, my first release is a no-frills, nuthin' fancy picking session with one of my oldest musical companions, fiddler Sean Orr. No foolin', Sean and I have been passing ships in the night since the days when we played in different combos that would find themselves gigging at the Samurai Sake House in OKC, OK. Ran into him again when I was playing with Killbilly in Dallas and he was with Cowboys & Indians. Then I ran into him the first week I moved to Austin to find that he was now in Bastrop. Since then, together we've played the stages of the Calgary and Winnipeg Folk Festivals and even a date at the Kennedy Center. We've played Arabic music together, and we've played Polish dances. Can't say there's another cat outside of Danny Barnes that I've played a wider mess of music with, and I've got plenty of recordings of us, but very little with Sean.

Sean and I did put out a traditionalist Texas Swing EP many years ago which was for whatever reason pretty much entirely ignored, but evidently spawned other local groups who seem to be doing pretty well with it at the hipster clubs on the Eastside of Austin where brown people used to live.

When we released "DANCE" back in 2006, we worked hard to get onto the "Western Swing" Festivals, but were uniformly turned down, sometimes quite bitterly, being told that the music of Milton Brown and Cliff Brunner was in fact NOT "Western Swing," but if we added a drummer and wore matching outfits, it would still be "Jazz." That experience lead up to proposed and as of yet unrealized recording project in conjunction with Cornell Hurd (of the "we liked your band but you need to keep your shirts tucked in" Cornell Hurd Band) working title "A Tribute to Rayond Seifert and Asleep at the Wheel: Popular Wheel tunes played in a Texas Swing Style OR 30 Years in and Those Poor Yankees Still Can't Get the Beat Right, Bless Their Dear Hearts." But alas, time moves on and there are in fact much, much better things to do.

original artwork by Howard Rains
Which leads us to this release: "Sean Orr & Mark Rubin present Texas Fiddle - Okie Guitar" for which we have started a modest Kickstarter campaign. Please take a moment and visit this link and consider helping us get this made.

The second proposed release is with songwriter-harmonica player Sean Tracey, and will consist of mostly original material that our former band mates didn't like, rescue our tunes from releases we don't own and cover about a half dozen Bad Livers numbers that I've worked out on claw-hammer banjo and fiddle, currently scheduled for November. Soon after, I plan on releasing the very first "Mark Rubin" release, which is currently in production, working title "The Triumph of Assimilation." Details to follow as they become realized.

Note to my musico pals: Barnes is right, MAKE and don't second guess yourself.

Bless you all for even reading this.



Notes for Tuesday, September 24 2013

a) I want to you consider me a Breaking Bad Free Zone. I'm not up to speed so let a dude catch up!

b) I witnessed the reaction to a bad call at football game widely advance similar sense of outrage at the success of Fascism in our country. Let's hear from Br. Carlin (z"l:)

c) Today is HAAM day in Austin. I have two shows with the Hot Nut Riveters, one 5:30-630 at Whole Foods downtown and Midnight at the Saxon Pub! Help keep Austin musicians healthy and support HAAM day! Between sets I will sit in on uBass at the Driskill Hotel Bar with the Blue Ribbon Healers!


Notes for Monday, September 23, 2013

a) Is it just me, but doesn't "American Exceptionalism" sound like broader translation of "Manifest Destiny?"

b) Happy to welcome Brother Guy Forstyh back to the QB spot in the Hot Nut Riveters offense game. Tight end Matt Smith and myself at center gave a truly heroic effort in his absence, but suffice to say the music loving public are making a great collective sigh of reliefCellist and full-time-nice-fellow Micheal Shay will be joining the fun at the Strange Brew Lounge Side Monday evening 7-8:30pm. I hear a rumor that the Blue Ribbon Healers are in town and might make an appearance as well.

c) What's with Homeland Security buying up so many .40 caliber rounds anyway? Do they really need tanks and flame throwers? Anything to do with the Pentagon's latest risk assessments cite internal disorder due to the fabric of civilized society after being ravaged by the effects of Global Warming? You think?  ;-)

d) Here's a video by some pals of mine from Russia called Dobranotch. One of the greatest nights of my life started with them, right after the Pavarotti impersonator, before our set and a live altering set by the former national Moldovan Folk Orchestra set at the mafia operated music festival held in a former Zepplin hanger in Riga Latvia. (Yes, Aaron Alexander. THAT night.) The tune is called "Pope and Sultan" and they own it. I found an old German song with American English from 1822. Not sure if its the same one, but at any rate I'm adding one or the other to my repertoire soon:
As I post it it has 144 views, which is criminal. Pass it around.


Don Walser would have been 79 today..

.. had he survived his Type 2 diabetes. Which I'm ashamed to say I was recently diagnosed with as well. I'm not so bad off that I require insulin and the doctors say I can beat it with diet and exercise, which I have taken seriously.

Here is the obituary I wrote for Don for the Austin Chronicle. As if I need another reminder to follow my doctors advice. In case you may have missed it, here is the last recording I made with Don, "Me and My Old Guitar." Here's the review from No Depression.


On music and poison.

Our Sages teach us that The Torah (the Law) is much like water: It is essential for nurturing the tress that give us shade, and the fruits and vegetables that sustain us. But like water it makes no distinctions, as it also feed the hemlock that will kill us. It is then our duty to identify the difference and educate others so that they thrive and not perish.

But is that not also the case with Music? Can a human truly exist without it? For all it's powerful connective and healing powers, it too can be fashioned into a tool of division and hurt. So we are obliged to always be in the process of learning the differences, and speaking out to warn our fellow humans when we encounter the poisons.


Had my fill of jousting, yes sirree...

Today I shuttered my Facebook account. No one asked me to, nor did anyone even recommend it. I simply decided that good it brought me was far and away not worth the ill it created in my brain.

My brain, like many others, is in the process of trying to kill me. Why should I help it?

So, when I feel the need to share, share here I will. If you have a comment, feel free to send it to me. I appreciate thoughtful debate. Which is why I shuttered my Facebook account.

Ok, that's it. Carry on


Language is in the news again today. *sigh*

May I add this perspective to the "English Only" debate?

My Mother and her ESL Class, OSU 1971

From my experience, all culture springs from language.

Be it music, or poetry or even the practice of your faith, it is all tied to rhythm of the language of your family and community raised you in. When you lose your language, even your accented English and your slang, you will surely lose your culture eventually. The folks who insist in "English only"* are in this respect spot on; no matter what they contend, their agenda will eventually rob you of the very essence of what makes you, you.

Lingua Franca, the language of trade? That's still English mostly, worldwide. It's the language of money and people who value money will want to learn it. But should they lose their language in the process and all that goes with it, they will lose more than any amount of money will ever be able to buy. And America is a democracy right? Where the majority speak Urdu, should not the savvy Capitalist retailer learn Urdu to service the trade? My own people have been pulling off that handy trick for centuries.

My Father's International Students at OSU, 1971
So using only the language of native Texans may I state, sin embargo, la cultura siempre prevalecerá cuando hablamos nuestra lengua materna. Rodina je kdo mluví česky doma děti jednolodní, kteří tančí polka. Et les gens qui parlent français cadien tendance à avoir des enfants qui ne peuvent cuisiner un repas complet en un seul pot noir. Najszczęśliwszych ludzi, których znam języka polskiego w domu i odtwarzać muzykę z krewnymi.
Aber der Grund, niemand spricht Deutsch, weil sie ihre Sprache zu sprechen aufgehört und jetzt gibt es tatsächlich wenig bis gar keine deutsche Kultur in Texas heute. מייַן אייגן קולטור ריזיידז אין די אָפּפאַל קענען פון געשיכטע דאַנק צו די צילגעווענדט באַזייַטיקונג פון אונדזער מענטשן פון אונדזער געבוירן שפּראַך. צי ניט לאָזן דעם פּאַסירן איר!

Finally, I'll share with you Marc Savoy's posted essay on the subject from an entirely different perspective; you live here in French speaking Louisiana and you DON'T speak French?:

*(ironic that this country can't even create a language of its own and still uses the language of the Colonial oppressors, right?)